“Web” Category

Shawn Blanc’s Kindle Touch Review

Shawn Blanc:

For the past year and a half I’ve been reading books on my iPad and never felt a need for a Kindle. However, after now using the Kindle Touch for several hours a day over the past few days, I feel as if all the accolades I ever heard about the Kindle were vast understatements.

November 17th, 2011

“Make Something”

Marcelo Somers:

Occupy Wall Street (and all the associated movements) completely defies what is amazing about today. I hate it because it’s sending young people every wrong message. Instead of inspiring the youth of today to create amazing things that add value to the world, it’s inspiring them to complain.

That captures my problem with these protests: there’s nothing productive about them. They’re filled with complaints, but no substantive ideas for how to improve things. It’s long on “There’s no future, there’s no future for you,” and short on making things better.

There’s certainly reason to be frustrated. We’re in the middle of a transition between two very different economic ages, and what worked in the last one—getting a college degree, almost any degree at all—is no longer sufficient for success. And, on top of that, we have an ineffective political system that can’t solve big problems, like our long-term fiscal crisis, let alone more every-day issues; we had a terrible financial crisis that resulted in a steep recession, while companies that should have lost it all were given tens of billions of dollars to weather the crisis; still, three years after that crisis, unemployment is dangerously high and shows little hope of improving; and this recession has laid bare economic inequality that makes the recession’s pain feel even greater, because comparatively, the well-off are doing alright.1

Yes, there’s good reason to be frustrated. But what Marcelo’s arguing is that, while we are in an absolutely terrible recession that’s been made worse by a confluence of factors, we are also in a time of incredible opportunity. This transition will be difficult, like all transitions, but it will also open up great opportunities—for the people who are willing to see them and to take advantage of them.

The Occupy movement isn’t interested in that, unfortunately—at least in the broad strokes of the movement. What it’s been interested in thus far is vilifying the well-off as the cause of our economic troubles, insinuating that they profited from the financial crisis and the ruin of everyone else, and it’s all of us against them. That’s an easy story to paint, but it’s not accurate, nor is it productive. How can we make good policy aimed at restoring our finances and getting our economy back on track when the movement’s thrust is anger at the well-off? Good policy does not result from misguided anger. It results from a lucid understanding of the situation, what caused it, and what can be done. Making the well-off pay penance for their perceived crimes is not good policy. It’s the satisfaction of anger and frustration, fleeting satisfaction that does nothing to solve the actual problem.

The movement, if it is going to have any positive impact, has to recognize that. It needs to begin contributing well-conceived ideas for how to make things better, rather than anger and divisiveness. They need to move beyond it, and contribute. Because as it is, it’s going no where.

  1. The much-derided “one percent” were particularly hard hit by the 2008 crisis and recession, actually, but it is a historically bad recession, and the poor and middle class have been hit the worst—simply because they have less to lose. []
November 16th, 2011

Dan Moren’s iTunes Match Primer

Dan Moren at Macworld has a great primer on iTunes Match.

It’s certainly a convincing service: never sync your iOS device with iTunes again for music, free up space, and still be able to listen to any song in your library. That’s pretty neat.

I’m starting to think, though, there’s a sweet spot between iTunes’s own-all-your-music and Rdio’s listen-to-anything-you-please. Maybe a subscription service that allows you to purchase albums for a reduced price?

I’m not sure what it is, but there’s value in both models. I love being able to discover new music on Rdio and throw it on while doing work, but paying a subscription for music I don’t own seriously bothers me. I don’t want my music to go ever disappear—it’s too important.

November 15th, 2011

Shawn Blanc’s Jawbone UP Review

Shawn Blanc reviewed the Jawbone UP, and he’s generally positive about it.

If you’re not familiar, the Jawbone UP is a little device that slips on your wrist like a wristband. It keeps track of your movement throughout the day, reminds you to get up and move around if you’ve been inactive for too long, tracks how well you slept, and will wake you up in the morning when you’re in a lighter sleep.

It’s a neat idea—especially tracking your daily activity and waking you up in the morning—but it doesn’t sound like it’s quite there yet. I think what it points to, though, is a future where we have a number of devices that look more like clothing items, do relatively mundane tasks for us, and communicate with other devices.

November 15th, 2011

Secret Labs

Ben Brooks:

That’s my largest fear with the Google X lab. Google has proven many times over that they can indeed make some really cool stuff. The problem is that they largely fail at creating practical, consumer, applications for their products that they dream up (Google Wave, for example. Google TV as another example.)

And that starts with having no coherent idea of where they’re going. They don’t know what their long-term plan is, and so they have no strategic focus.

All of these projects that sometimes turn into something and sometimes don’t would be fine if Google had a very well defined idea of what the company is and what it does so they could integrate the good ones. But they don’t, so we end up with Google doing a bunch of things that don’t really fit together into a greater whole.

Jobs reportedly told Larry Page that Google needs to focus on a few things and do them well. That’s precisely what he meant: figure out who you are, get rid of the things that don’t fit that, and build from there.

November 14th, 2011

John Gruber At Çingleton

John Gruber at Çingleton:

If things go right, if they go the way I think they’re going to, these next five years, we’re never going to work harder, we’re never going to be under more pressure, and we’re never going to have to solve tougher problems… But the only thing any of us is going to regret, is if we don’t aim big enough.

Hell of a talk.

November 11th, 2011

Zynga Demands Employees Return Stock Ahead of IPO

Zynga is trying something a little… Unorthodox: they’re demanding certain employees return stock ahead of their IPO. Here’s management’s reasoning:

Although Zynga’s decision might be met with some criticism, the firm’s executives reportedly justified their strategy by saying it was best for the company. With the unvested shares, the executives believed they could attract more top talent with the promise of stock.

Perhaps they should consider what taking back stock already awarded to employees under the threat of termination will do to current employee morale and to anyone even considering working for Zynga.

Maybe they awarded too much stock to employees early on. Fine—either find a way to get some of it back that’s mutually beneficial and doesn’t make employees feel like they’re getting screwed, or suck it up, move on, and find another way to reward new hires.

Great example of not considering consequences of your actions, though.

November 10th, 2011


Khoi Vinh just announced his new company, and it’s Mixel, a social collage-making app for iPad.

It lets you make collages—Mixels—from included photos, your own, or ones you pick up from the collages other people are creating. Mixels are saved and posted publicly for everyone to see and build on themselves.

Here’s Khoi Vinh explaining the idea for it:

Even better, for the very first time in decades of personal computing history, we have an ideal digital art device in the hands of a mass audience, a huge and still-growing user base composed not just of professional artists and early adopters, but of people from all walks of life who are embracing the liberating simplicity of this new platform.

That’s big. It changes what’s possible for visual self-expression in a huge way. Now anyone can do this — anyone. They just need the right software. Creating that software is what my co-founder Scott Ostler and I are trying to do with our new company.

It looks quite well done and it’s certainly an interesting idea that I think is a natural fit for children especially, but it does require connecting it to your Facebook account to use. That doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers others, especially because this is an inherently social application and I don’t think Khoi would allow his application to abuse it, but that does limit its users to people old enough to have an account. Why not allow people to create their own Mixel-specific account if they’d prefer it?

I may be way off on this, but I think children are the biggest group of potential users for this kind of application, and it should take advantage of it to drive its use. I’m sure plenty of adults will use it, but kids are the ones who can see it as a way to create something really fun and meaningful to them, rather than just a trivial app to goof around with. So get those users, get kids hooked on it, and build off of that into something even greater. I’m not sure targeting adults is the best strategy for Mixel.

November 10th, 2011


Raven is a new web browser for the Mac.

They have some great ideas, and it’s also nice to see someone trying to make web browsers better. That’s something we haven’t seen in a long time, besides Google and Apple.

November 10th, 2011

Steve Jobs’s Thoughts on Flash

Seems like a good time to revisit Steve Jobs’s thoughts on Flash:

Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short.

November 9th, 2011

The Atlantic’s Profile of Moonbot Studios

Moonbot Studios is the group that built the inventive and beautiful “Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” iPad app/interactive book, and the Atlantic has wonderful profile of the group:

A color image of the cityscape shows up on screen with a triangle of pale blue sky at the top left of the image. Everyone ooohs. Ellis immediately starts noting its flaws. “This is just me playing around with color,” she says. “I wanted to play with the buildings. So, yeah, it’s not done. Eventually there will be Numberlies and letters.”

Joyce, sitting down near her, starts to imagine a different blue in the sky. He sounds as if he’s talking from a long way away. “What if that blue in the sky was really old Technicolor?” Joyce says. “That crazy fucking Technicolor blue. You saw some of it in A Star is Born. You can have it drop off, but have the really crazy blue in there.” His laser pointer flashes to the spot of sky. “Do that Star Is Born Blue.”

They’re using the iPad to build an altogether new medium for storytelling and are making beautiful artwork. I’m skeptical about integrating game-like elements into text and animation-based stories, but there’s huge potential with combining text and animation into a cohesive whole to tell a story. (And, more importantly, I’m not really the target demographic for these “books”—kids are—and they seem to love it.) I’m just excited to see a group creating a truly new way to tell stories, and by all accounts, making some great stories.

What’s interesting, too, is this kind of stuff shows the limits of the App Store for selling “applications” and iOS’s round-rectangle icon for managing them. Should “applications” like this really be sold the same way as, say, a Twitter app, and accessed the same way on iOS devices, too? I don’t think so. It doesn’t feel right. It feels almost like it’s devaluing this application by representing it the same way as any other, because it’s something else entirely. It’s a new kind of media, and should be treated as such.


November 7th, 2011

The Rands T-Shirt

Michael Lopp is selling Rands In Repose t-shirts again. All profits from shirt sales go to First Book, a group promoting children’s literacy. As usual, a great shirt for a great cause.

November 7th, 2011

Fusion Ads Bought by BuySellAds

Fusion Ads was purchased by BuySellAds.

I’m skeptical it’s going to work out, but regardless, best of luck to Chris Bowler with whatever it is he does next. You won’t meet a nicer, more caring guy.

November 3rd, 2011

Square’s Automatic Tab

Square just updated their Card Case iPhone app with a new feature: automatic tabs. Basically, you can now walk into stores that support Square and pay without ever taking out your phone or wallet. Pretty neat.

November 2nd, 2011

Steven Levy’s Profile of Nest

From Steven Levy’s profile of Nest:

Though Fadell isn’t specific, he says that the company may offer more services, perhaps ones that bring more money to Nest. For the long-term, Nest plans to move beyond thermostats and exploit similar green opportunities in the way that only a tech company can. This particularly excites Nest’s investors.

“The Internet so far has been a collection of connected people. We think that the next step is connected devices,” says Randy Komisar, of Kleiner Perkins. “This could be the edge device that drives other things connected to the home.”

Nest can also be a model for another phenomenon: applying the skills of Silicon Valley to transform other seemingly mundane but nonetheless important objects.

I love this. They’re tackling something that we all assumed was boring, would always be boring, and there was nothing we could really do. And they’re turning it into something exciting.

October 26th, 2011